Approval of the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Water Resources


On August 5th, 2021 Lok Sabha became the 12th Rajya Sabha.

The report is entitled “Flood management in the country including international water treaties in the field of water resource management with special reference to the treaty / agreement with China, Pakistan and Bhutan” Measures, deals with India’s water cooperation with Pakistan, China and Bhutan.


The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) between India and Pakistan was signed in 1960 after eight years of negotiations. The treaty shared the common waters between the two countries. Inland navigation was originally a basin management plan, but it could not be implemented. In his book Indus divided: dispute over India, Pakistan and the river basin, notes Daniel Haines that the most important issues between India and Pakistan on the Indus are sovereignty, which the two countries have defined differently.

For India, sovereignty meant control over every drop of water that flows through its territory, while Pakistan saw sovereignty in the principles of maintaining the status quo or “prior” Appropriation”. By what Pakistan meant that, since it was already using the waters of the Indus River System (IRS), any restriction on supplies by India would be an attack on his sovereignty.

Under the IWT, the waters of the three “Eastern Rivers” – Sutlej, Beas and Ravi, with an average annual flow of around 33 million acre-feet (MAF) – are allocated for unrestricted use in India. It allocates the waters of the “western rivers” – Indus, Jhelum and Chenab with an average annual flow of around 135 MAF mostly to Pakistan. Inland shipping allows India to use the waters of the three western rivers for domestic, non-consuming and agricultural purposes.

Like many contracts, inland shipping required a compromise. Therefore, all statements by Indian and Pakistani leaders about the “sell-out” of their respective water interests in the context of inland shipping, as the Pakistani economist Jaweid Ishaque notes, are “frivolous”. Pakistan gave around 29 MAF of water to India in the three eastern rivers, but received around 114 MAF from them at this point three western rivers. According to the regulations of the IWT, hydropower projects on western rivers can be built by India, subject to the conditions in the appendix D..

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The committee has recommended that Chinese measures be constantly monitored to ensure that “they are not engaging in any major interference with the Brahmaputra River that would adversely affect ours.” [India’s] national interests ”.

Contrary to popular belief in India, citing data provided by the Chinese researcher L. Jiang and his team Nilanjan. have published Ghosh shows that the total annual runoff of the Brahmaputra from China is estimated to be about 31 billion cubic meters (BCM), while by the time it reaches Bahadurabad (the measuring station at the end of the sub-basin of the rivers in Bangladesh) its discharge is approximate 606 BCM.

Then citing the work of scholars B. Datta and Vijay P. Singh, Ghosh writes that the peak flow of the Brahmaputra during the monsoons is approximately at Nuxia and Tsela Dzong (water measuring stations in Tibet) 5,000 and 10,000 cubic Meters per second, while in Guwahati it is around 40,000 cubic meters per second and in Bahadurabad 50,000 cubic meters per second. During the lean season, the flow in Nuxia is around 300-500 cubic meters per second, while in Guwahati it is around 4,000 cubic meters per second and 5,000 Cubic meters per second at Bahadurabad.

The above data shows that China’s upstream activities are less likely to have a greater impact on the flow of the Brahmaputra River in India, particularly Assam. However, Chinese activities in the upper reaches affect the Siang River, as the Brahmaputra is called in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. Floods and increased pollution of the Siang water in Arunachal Pradesh are often attributed to the Chinese upstream activities.


The third country referred to in the Committee’s report is Bhutan. Bhutan’s greatest concern is its growing hydropower debt. According to the report on the position of public debt for the quarter ended on 30. 223.294.803 million (Rs. 1 equals 0.99 Nu). This means an increase of Nu. 7,924,635 million (or 3.7%) of Nu’s total public debt. 215,370,168 million 06/30/2020.

Nu. 161,325,459 million made up 75.1% of the total volume Foreign debt. The majority of the hydropower projects in Bhutan are funded and supported by India. In the section titled “Disbursements, Payments and Outstanding Loans in Indian Rupees”, the disbursed outstanding liability (hydropower rupee loan) for Bhutan as of September 30, 2020 is Rs. 147,246.32 million while other rupee loans are Rs. 7,000.

The amount to be repaid often increases and revenue collection is hampered by the time it takes to complete the projects or any technical problems that may arise during the construction or operational phase. For example, the third unit of the Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project has yet to be commissioned while it is currently undergoing extensive repairs after a major failure and fire 09/21/2020. The same unit went out from May 23 to June 27, 2020 showing a loss of. caused Just 1.3 billion.

An independent technical committee formed by the Mangdechhu project blamed the Indian joint stock company Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL) for the failure the unit. Work on the India-backed (70% through loans and 30% through grants) The Mangdechhu project started in 2012 and was officially inaugurated in 2019. BHEL was awarded the contract to supply the electromechanical equipment package for the project, which included the manufacture, supply, assembly and commissioning of four Pelton turbines and generators, a control system and others Additional equipment.

In addition to the economic aspect of the hydropower plant, Bhutan is also suffering from the effects of climate change. In its 2016 study, the National Environment Commission found that the phenomenon of climate change is having a serious impact on Bhutans Water supplies. Bhutan’s first National Water Plan, published in 2016, speaks about the uneven distribution of precipitation in the future and the risk of loss for glaciers on the Rivers of the country.

In summary it can be said that there is little to be gained without considering the Indus, Brahmaputra or other cross-border rivers from the perspective of catchment-wide management. However, this has its own problems, especially when the member countries themselves do not get along well.

Amit Ranjan is a research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. He is also the author of the book Contested Waters: India’s Transboundary River Water Disputes in South Asia, Routledge. The views expressed in this article are personal.


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